Use Kung Fu technique to become fully rooted
Use Kung Fu practice to assist those in need
Kung Fu must not be used for evil purposes
A hero adopts a hero’s ways
Virtuous warriors have their duties
The Shaolin Way
In their earliest uses, sashes were pieces of cloth wrapped around a practitioner’s waist to hold up their pants. Later, as time progressed, the cloth was made wider so that not only would it hold up the pants but it was also used to practice breathing techniques by always pressing tightly on the dan tien (a few inches below the belly button.)
The color of these sashes was usually black since, in China, that was the easiest and most accessible color of dye used for clothing. In the early 1900’s, the Japanese would begin to use belts as a distinction of rank, black being the highest. In the mid-1950’s, many international kung fu associations also began to use ranking distinctions but they kept their original sashes and most adopted the black sash as their highest rank.
Our school’s ranking is as follows:
The third of the eight stances is the Empty Stance:
The second stance of the eight is the Forward Bow.
The first step for a student and his or her family is to realize that it is very important to ask to be tested. In the same vein, do not ask for the results of a test that was taken – you will be told in time. When a student is seen to be ready to attempt the challenge of a test, he or she will be informed of the opportunity and then must decide whether or not to participate.
Should the student decide to take on this physical and mental challenge, he/she must focus and try hard to polish their movements with extra practice. The higher the rank testing for, the more that is expected of the participating student. Not only should the movements be done correctly, but more important to advancement, stances must be low, strikes must have proper power and relaxed balance is crucial.
On the mental side, one should be very focused on what is needed for the test and be aware of any distractions that might take away from performing at the highest level. If on or near the date of an exam there are extra pressures with school or work of conflicting social schedules, the student might consider possibly putting off the test until he/she can confidently bring both physical and mental abilities to bear on the task at hand. Testing is not designed only to test a student’s physical abilities, but also how he would act under stressful conditions.
Failure is not designed merely by the outcome of an exam, but rather by the individual’s understanding that he must always try to improve and always be willing to learn from his/her mistakes. In martial training, as in everyone’s life, challenges never end and failure is decided by the person and not by the challenge. Little is learned through easy victory, but much can be learned through temporary defeat.
Consistency in Kung Fu training, no matter the style, is an absolute must. But rather than going on about all the pros and cons of the subject, let me explain it in the form of a story that was often told by Grand Master Cheng:
Once many years in the past, there was a very famous old Kung Fu master who knew his time had come. So he called his three oldest students to his bedside to tell them the greatest secret of Kung Fu. He bid the eldest of the three to kneel down close, and with his last ounce of chi, whispered the secret into the student’s ear. And right after that he died.
The eldest student sat upright with a combined look of amusement at what he’d been told and deep sadness over his good teacher’s passing. The other two student’s had a combined look of sadness and great anticipation over what the greatest secret of Kung Fu was.
“Well!” they finally blurted out, “tell us, what was Master’s secret?!”
The oldest student looked blindly at them and said, “Keep Training!”
Everyone is entitled to their individual personal space – a safe and comfortable distance from those around us. Most of us are aware of the “close talker” – the person who gets uncomfortably close to us when communicating. Unfortunately, their proximity undermines their point and we are focused on why they chose to get so close and how we could create some distance from them and return to a “normal” homeostasis. Truly, a level of comfortable space is an innate need within us.
Chinese culture has a lot to teach us about this. Our American custom of shaking hands in some circumstances puts us too close to the unknown. The Chinese bow grew out of necessity and self-protection before modern civilization and organized protection from the government. In more ancient times, people crossing paths had a healthy suspicion of those people passing by, hence the reason why they bowed from a distance instead of shaking hands. Keeping a protective separation was a way to provide time for action in the event they encountered an aggressor and needed time to react.
For this reason, for self-defense, do your best to keep a “bubble” around you (much like the Leonardo Da Vinci’s, “Vitruvian Man” pictured). If you feel anyone is potentially aggressive or dangerous, do not hesitate nor feel awkward about intentionally keeping distance from them. This space arising from your awareness could potentially be the difference between life and death.